New Data Shows Traffic Deaths Down in 2009

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Sep 10, 2010 in Car Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released traffic fatality data for 2009 this week. There was good news for West Virginia. Even if the roads are among the most dangerous in the country (see our September 7 post), they're not as bad as they used to be.

Nationwide, the number of highway deaths was the lowest since 1950, a remarkable feat considering that vehicle miles traveled increased. And, the 2009 data showed the lowest fatality and injury rates ever reported. Every category of vehicle came in lower than 2008.

The 33,808 fatalities last year translated into 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles, a significant decline from the 1.26 deaths reported in 2008. motorcycle deaths fell by 9.7 percent this year, halting an 11-year upward trend. Fewer alcohol-impaired driving fatalities were reported, as well: 10,839 last year versus 11,711 in 2008, marking a 7.4 percent decrease.

The number of injuries also fell -- about 5.5 percent -- in 2009. The results continue a 10-year downward trend.

West Virginia reported 356 traffic deaths in 2009, almost 6 percent lower than 2008. Drunk driving accounted for 32 percent of the deaths, about the same as 2008. One third were related to speeding, an increase over 2008.

The state's rural roads continue to be the site of the majority of traffic fatalities. More than two-thirds of the fatalities occurred on rural roads, unchanged from 2008 but a significant decrease from earlier years. Passengers accounted for almost 80 percent of the deaths, continuing a disturbing upward trend.

The NHTSA will release more state-specific data later this year. In the meantime, the agency's parent, the U.S. Department of Transportation, will continue its efforts to eliminate traffic deaths altogether. Officials credit increased seat-belt use and stricter drunk driving laws for 2009's favorable outcome. The department plans to continue its efforts with regard to distracted driving .

Traffic fatalities are the leading cause of death for Americans aged 3 to 34.


NHTSA "US Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces Lowest Traffic Fatalities in Six Decades" 9/9/10

West Virginia Public Broadcasting "Traffic Deaths Down Last Year in Nation, WV" 9/9/10

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